UniMed Projects Promote Collaborations Across the Mediterranean

As global problems necessitate global solutions, the Mediterranean Universities Union (UniMed) is engaged in numerous projects spanning the Mediterranean shores aimed at promoting quality education governance, research collaboration, diversity, student mobility, and employability.

Established in 1991, UniMed is an association of 144 universities from 23 countries on both shores of the Mediterranean.

Governance Projects in Algeria and Iraq

Following a prolonged period of strong centralization, Algerian universities are transitioning towards greater autonomy and are being urged to contribute more to the national economy. Consequently, universities require medium-term strategic plans that consider their environments and ensure a higher employability rate for their graduates.

To support these objectives, UniMed, in collaboration with 12 Algerian universities, Algeria’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research, and the Commission for the Implementation of Quality Assurance in Higher Education in Algeria (CIAQES), has formed a partnership. This partnership aims to bolster the reform initiated by the ministry concerning university governance systems, focusing on strengthening quality-assurance mechanisms and defining strategic plans.

The project, known asESAGOV, has developed action plans for defining strategies and enhancing the strategic skills of universities’ academic and administrative staff. It is currently in its final phase of revising or defining the strategic plans, with a presentation scheduled in Algiers in January 2023. Four university partners in Europe are providing assistance in this process.

In Iraq, UniMed has initiated the INsPIRE project, coordinated by the University of Siena, to address weaknesses in higher-education institutions’ governance systems and provide models of good governance practices. Some of these models are based on higher-education reforms introduced in response to global changes such as economic recession, increased internationalization, disillusionment with state-centered steering of higher education, and the trend towards marketization of higher education.

UniMed projects in Algeria, Iraq, and the Kurdistan Region of Iraq focus on university governance, quality assurance, and harmonizing higher-education systems.

INsPIRE aims to instill good governance practices in Iraqi universities, including institutional values such as autonomy, accountability, participation, internationalization, and well-structured management systems ensuring the implementation of these practices.

Ten Iraqi universities and the country’s Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research are participating in the project. Three university partners in Europe and one in Turkey are also involved.

In the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, UniMed has launched a similar project, called APPRAIS. In collaboration with the Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, the project addresses governance, strategic planning, and quality assurance of higher-education institutions, with a particular focus on enhancing the capacities of human resources and proposing a reform of the local higher-education system through the implementation of the Bologna process.

Eight Kurdish universities are participating, along with four partner universities in Europe.

Virtual Exchanges and Online Monitoring

To mitigate the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on student mobility, UniMed initiated the FRAMESproject to foster a harmonized implementation of "blended mobility," which combines physical and virtual educational exchanges, among higher-education institutions across Europe. The goal is to make the European Higher Education Area more innovative and resilient, aiding universities in transitioning from the Covid-19 emergency to sustainable innovation.

The project revolves around the Virtual Exchange (VE) methodology, which entails sustained, technology-enabled, people-to-people online exchange sessions facilitating constructive communication and interaction with the support of educators or facilitators.

In another technology-based endeavor, named RSMF (Remote Student Monitoring Framework for Securing Exams), UniMed aims to develop innovative tools to assist universities in addressing the challenges of online teaching and learning assessment in online courses.

The project strives to advance the latest approach by applying modern technologies to resolve the challenges of ensuring academic integrity when students take exams remotely.

A Diverse, Tolerant Mediterranean

In another technology-related project, UniMed seeks to develop innovative tools to assist universities in coping with the challenges of online teaching and online learning assessment.

To counter increasing xenophobia, cultural tensions, and toxic narratives on migrants and migration, UniMed is contributing to several projects related to the social inclusion of refugees and displaced people, along with their education rights.

The Ci-RES project is a pilot experiment coordinated by the Algerian university Mohamed Lamine Debaghine Sétif 2, aiming to create institutional capacities for the integration of refugees into Algerian higher education. The project brings together four partner universities in Europe, four Algerian universities, and the Algerian Ministry of Higher Education and Scientific Research.

This project endeavors to strengthen the knowledge and skills of academic and administrative staff to better support refugees in universities.

Plans include amending universities’ internal regulations to incorporate provisions on the status of refugees, their rights, and obligations; enhancing access to employability for refugee students; and promoting refugee culture and intercultural dialogue through partnerships with civil society organizations and local communities.

Another project, UNI(di)VERSITY, supports the role of European higher-education institutions in building inclusive societies and promoting the social inclusion of migrants and refugees. It aims to enhance understanding of successful, transferable strategies that universities have adopted regarding diversity and inclusion.

It also seeks to inspire higher-education institutions to commit to their role as key actors in promoting inclusion and cultural diversity concerning the phenomenon of migration.

Addressing Specific Needs of Vulnerable Groups

Another project, RAISD (Reshaping Attention and Inclusion Strategies for Distinctively vulnerable people among the forcibly displaced), focuses on identifying highly vulnerable groups among forcibly displaced people, analyzing their specific needs, and identifying suitable practices tailored to address those needs.

Led by the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, the project recently concluded with the presentation of eight innovative strategies designed in seven countries for the care and inclusion of forcibly displaced people in Europe and the Middle East.

The team conducted advocacy-focused research grounded in human rights and socio-ecological models through a network of units in countries along migration routes. The project promoted the involvement of vulnerable groups in these research units, enabling them to speak with their own voices, gather information, and test practices.

Partner institutions in the project include universities in Jordan, Lebanon, Turkey, and Europe, along with Menedék, the Hungarian Association for Migrants.

Food Safety Curriculum Development

Several UniMed projects aim to foster greater inclusiveness of marginalized groups, including refugees and displaced people, in higher education and societies at large.

The FoSaMed project aims to contribute to inclusive higher education in Morocco through curriculum development and teacher education on food safety.

It brings together four Moroccan universities to develop a joint master’s degree program on food safety associated with the recovery and promotion of the traditional Mediterranean diet. The project includes underprivileged groups such as women, rural populations, and refugees, providing them equal access to knowledge and opportunities.

Universities in Portugal and Spain are providing support.

Enhancing Research Capabilities in Libya

In an effort to promote research and innovation in Libya, UniMed launched the IBTIKAR project. It aims to increase the production of joint high-quality research in Libya by cultivating a new class of thinkers capable of addressing local and global challenges and positively impacting socio-economic growth.

Under this project, Libyan administrative and academic staff will share not only acquired knowledge but also experience in managing and implementing research activities in the Libyan context with their counterparts. Libyan research centers will be equipped and properly furnished from both technological and human resources perspectives.

The project also seeks to foster networking between Libyan and European higher-education institutions and research centers to maximize synergies and share knowledge and experiences regarding scientific research with a stronger connection to the labor market.

Mobility and Employability

The PELIARQ project (Promoting European-Levantine Internationalization and Automatic Recognition of Qualifications) has two main objectives: to promote internationalization opportunities for European universities focusing on Levant countries and to enhance the recognition of qualifications and transparency in education systems in Europe.

The project aims to establish a better understanding of Levantine qualifications and systems to support learning mobility between Europe and the Levant. This will also promote social inclusion, particularly for individuals from the region, including refugees or migrants from Syria, by improving recognition of their prior qualifications.

To address unemployment challenges in southern Mediterranean countries, UniMed launched its SubNetwork on Employability as part of the RESUME project (Mediterranean Network for Employability), which promotes cooperation between members on entrepreneurship and employability themes.

The SubNetwork focuses on female entrepreneurship and university incubators. Over three years, the RESUME partners collected approximately 300 good practices concerning young graduates’ employability.

Reference: Al-Fanar Media